Thursday, March 26, 2009

2 Peter Chapter 1

The following is my translation of 2 Peter chapter 1. Please critique (me, not 2 Peter).

2 Peter

Simon Peter, slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who obtained as their portion a faith equal in honor to ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to y o u in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 Seeing that His divine power has bestowed on us all things necessary for life and piety through the knowledge of the One who summoned us through glory and virtue, 4 by means of which has been bestowed us the exceptionally valuable and greatest promises, so that through these y o u may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of desire. 5 But also for this very reason, having made every effort, in y o ur faith supply virtue, and in y o ur virtue supply knowledge, 6 and in y o ur knowledge supply self-control, and in y o ur self-control steadfastness, and in y o ur steadfastness piety, 7 and in y o ur piety brotherly affection, and in y o ur brotherly affection love. 8 For if these things are y o urs and abounding, they make y o u neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For the one who does not have these things is blind, being nearsighted, having forgotten the purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, make all the more effort to make y o ur invitation and election guaranteed, for if y o u do these things y o u will never lose y o ur footing. 11 For in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to y o u.

12 For this reason I will not neglect to always remind y o u about these things, although y o u know them and are firmly fixed in the truth that y o u have. 13 But I think it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to wake y o u up with a reminder, 14 knowing that the taking off of my tabernacle is coming soon, just as our Lord Jesus Christ also revealed to me. 15 But I will also make every effort so that after my departure y o u will always be able to recall these things. 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to y o u the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For having received honor and glory from God the Father, having a voice such as this borne to Him from the Majestic Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I have set my good pleasure"-- 18 and we ourselves heard this very voice which was borne from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word as something that is now all the more sure, to which y o u would do well to turn y o ur mind to, as y o u would to a lamp shining in a gloomy place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in y o ur hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of the prophet's own explanation, 21 for no prophecy was ever borne by the will of man, but saints of God spoke as they were being borne by the Holy Spirit. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"The Shack" by Jurgen Moltmann

I know the cover says it is by William P. Young but it's really by Jurgen Moltmann. I'll explain.

Someone recently lent me a copy of The Shack. I've read several negative reviews of the book but thought it would be beneficial to review the book myself. As a piece of literature it was mediocre--it reminded me of several other books I've read in the "Christian book" genre. There isn't much character development. The literary devices used are kind of interesting but the characters themselves are not.

The book has a lot more with theology than the average Christian fiction book. When I read some of the negative reviews I thought that they were perhaps making too much of some of the passages in the book. After reading the book, I'm not sure that the judgments of the reviewers were always correct but it is clear that The Shack definitely has a theological agenda.

At its core the book is about God and the problem of evil. On this particular topic it does a reasonably good job. There are many books on this topic but this is the only work of fiction that I've read that deals with it directly. I did not necessarily agree with everything the author said about God and evil but the author seems to follow St. Augustine's line of reasoning and is operating within the bounds of historic Christianity.

I wish the same were true for the rest of the book and all the other issues that are addressed. God the Father is revealed is portrayed in the book as an African-American woman because the main character has too much baggage with his own earthly father to deal with God as Father. It is true that God is neither male nor female but He has chosen to reveal Himself as Father. There are passages in Scripture where God is said to comfort us a mother comforts her child but God never speaks of Himself as mother. He compares certain activities which He performs as being like something a mother would do but never says, "I am your mother." The author of the book seems to be addressing some of the debates that come up when women have had very negative experiences with their fathers and it is asked if it is appropriate for them to call God "mother." Later on in the book, God the Father does reveal Himself as a Father when the main character is ready.

It's hard to imagine falling before the god in The Shack in compete and utter terror in they way we often see people in Scripture react when they come in contact with God.  The author is rightly critical of the modern evangelical concept of God as just some abstract being but substitutes it with  another false picture of God as my buddy.

Some of the reviews accused the book of teaching modalism--the idea that God is one person who expresses Himself in three different modes of operation. When I first started reading the book I was surprised because the book really seemed to be teaching an opposite error--Tritheism. Tritheism denies the oneness of the essence of God. The book presents us with a Trinity without order and without unity--it's all about relationship. 

As I read on, I did find some modalism. Papa (God the Father) is often said in the book to have scars on his wrists from the crucifixion. This is an old heresy associated with modalism known as Patripassianism in which it is taught that God the Father suffered on the cross. The book makes several statements supporting patripassianism.

As I mulled this over in my head, I started thinking how very odd it was that somebody would try to teach both Tritheism and modalism at the same time. Then it hit me--that's exactly what Jurgen Moltmann did.

Moltmann's Trinity was all about relationship. Moltmann also taught that the Father suffered on the cross. Moltmann taught a form of panentheism which is less explicit in The Shack but can still be found there. Far more explicit in The Shack is Moltmann's transexual god--a motherly Father and fatherly Mother. Just like Moltmann, The Shack is also opposed to order in marital relationships. Moltmann and The Shack both have deep-seated problems with authority. It's hard to imagine how Moltmann's god or the god of The Shack would cause some of the reactions to God that we find in Scripture. In Scripture we find people falling in terror before God because of a knowledge of their own sinfulness. We find Moses being told that no man can see God and live. We find the Apostles describing themselves as slaves of God. It's hard to imagine any of this happening of the god found in the The Shack is the true God.

The Shack portrays God as an egalitarian and even a feminist who thinks we would all be better off if women ruled the world (although we would still have problems just not so many wars). The Scriptures are pretty clear that God has given men and women different and complimentary roles and placed them in a certain order. This cannot be explained as God giving in to the culture. Jesus was not afraid to go against the culture of His day and God certainly was not.

I've seen some reviews that accuse the book of teaching universalism. I don't think that's true. The book does speak of Jesus saving people who were Muslims, Buddhists, Republicans, Democrats, etc. but denies that there are many paths to God. Jesus says that He goes down many paths to get people. What is unclear is what happens to those people once they are in relationship to Him. The book never really answers the question. The book does say that Jesus has no interest in making them Christians. 

I'm not clear on whether or not some of these people know they are in relationship with Christ according to the book. I'm not sure if they remain Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. according to the book. It seems irresponsible for the author not to flesh out what is meant in the book. The statement shocks and make people think, but doesn't really give any answers. My guess is that the author believes that there are some who are united to Christ but do not know it.

The god in The Shack is also very anti-institutional. Jesus has no use for the church according to The Shack. I do not deny that institution does become bad when it becomes the goal but it is not evil in and of itself. Anytime two or more people get together for anything, some type of institution will develop. In the book of Acts we find that the church met and decided to appoint deacons--this was an institutional act. The Apostle Paul says that God has appointed some to be teachers and some to be pastors and some to function in other capacities in the church which tells us that people in union with Christ are not to live in isolation but to serve one another in the body of Christ. According to what Jesus said in Matthew 28, the church is called to make disciples of all nations. They do this by baptizing and teaching. Being brought into communion with the Triune God is not just based on some feeling, it is based on objective acts. If it were all based on feeling and we were honest with ourselves we would all be in despair. Jesus never says that He makes disciples through the teachings of Muslims and Buddhists.

And this brings us to another similarity between The Shack and Moltmann. Both make assertions without any real Scriptural support. They don't take the time to address opposing viewpoints. What we end up with is a god who looks an awful lot like the person writing about him.

Anyhow, I could go on forever but others have written plenty and I just wanted to offer my own observation about The Shack/Moltmann connection. For a good critique of Moltmann, other theologies of the Trinity, and great suggestions for developing a doctrine of the Trinity, I highly recommend The Holy Trinity by Robert Letham.

Given the book's popularity, I think pastors should read this book so they know what some in their congregation are probably reading. It is also interesting to see what Moltmann's concept of the Trinity would look like if you ran into Him/Her. Perhaps someone should write a book showing what all the various models of the Trinity would look like if you ran into them. I do think that pastors should also be careful in how they address those who are reading the book. Many have been recommended this book after suffering a great loss and shouldn't be attacked for reading the book.

I hope this review was helpful in understanding the theology of The Shack. I tried to deal with the book as charitably as possible. There is a forum which is dedicated to the discussion of the book. I posted some comments there but received no response, so I assume that my interpretation of the book is correct. If you read the threads, you will find that the author does not seem open at all to anyone who disagrees with him. In his biography he says that he is no longer a member of any church body because he doesn't think any would have him. I think the real problem is that he will not have the church.

Monday, March 9, 2009


A few years ago, I started a project in which I intended to create a translation of the New Testament based on the Greek text edited by Robinson and Pierpont. I self-published a translation of the book of Revelation and translated some of the other New Testament Epistles. For various reasons, this project came to a halt. Over time I also became convinced that the 1904 Antoniades edtion of the Greek New Testament approved by the Patriarch of Constantinople is better representation of a true ecclesiastical text. There is an on-line version of this text that can be read here. I believe it is important to view the church primarily as the preserver of the Holy Scriptures and not the corrupter. If we view the church primarily as corrupter of Holy Scripture then we are led on the quest for the historical text and ultimately on the quest for the historical Jesus.

I just completed the Book of Jude which was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. Jude assumes a knowledge of some extra-Biblical literature and how you understand that literature makes a difference in how Jude is translated. I believe my translation of Jude is a little more mature than some of my previous work. I hope to revise my previous translations both for style and to bring them in harmony with the 1904 Antoniades edition of the New Testament. I compared my translation to several popular English translations to try to achieve a translation that most clearly communicates the meaning of the Greek and that makes for good English. I made use of several commentaries. Richard Bauckham's was the most helpful. I consulted some more recent commentaries by Gene Green and Peter Davids but they basically repeated Bauckham on the difficult passages and didn't seem to add much to the discussion. I consulted several lexicons but BDAG was the most helpful. So, here is my translation. I would greatly appreciate constructive criticism.


Jude, Jesus Christ's slave, and brother of James, To those who are invited, sanctified in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy and peace and love be multiplied to y o u.

3 Beloved, while making every effort to write to y o u concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to y o u, strongly urging y o u to contend earnestly for the faith which was once and for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain people slipped in stealthily, who long ago were written about as designated for this judgment, impious people, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ. 5 But I want to remind y o u, though y o u have been informed of all things once and for all, that the Lord, having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, on the second occasion destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And angels who did not keep their first place, but deserted their own dwelling, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness until the judgment of the great day; 7 as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in the same way as these, having indulged in illicit sexual relations and gone after other flesh, are set forth as an example, undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. 8 But in the same way too, these people, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh and reject Lordship and slander the glorious ones. 9 But when Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil, was arguing about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring an accusation of slander against him, but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!" 10 But these people slander whatever they do not understand, while by the things they do understand, instinctively, like unreasoning animals, in these things they are destroyed. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain, they plunged into Balaam's error for profit, and through the controversy of Korah they perished.

12 These people are hidden rocks in the sea in your love-feasts, feasting with y o u without reverence, shepherding only themselves; waterless clouds, blown along by the winds; late autumn trees not bearing fruit, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, causing their shameful things to splash up like foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of the darkness has been kept forever. 14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with tens of thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious among them of all their impious works which they committed impiously, and of all the hard things which impious sinners spoke against Him." 16 These people are grumblers, complaining about their lot, walking according to their desires; and their mouth utters puffed-up words, showing partiality for the sake of an advantage. 17 But y o u, beloved, remember the sayings which were proclaimed beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 They were telling y o u that in the last time there will be mockers walking according to their own desires for impieties. 19 These people are the ones causing divisions, who follow mere natural instincts, not having the Spirit. 20 But y o u, beloved, building yourselves up on the foundation of y o ur most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to life eternal. 22 And have mercy on those who are uncertain; 23 but others save with fear, snatching them out of the fire, hating even the tunic that has been soiled by the flesh.

24 Now to the One who is able to keep them from stumbling, and to present them without blemish in the presence of His glory with piercing exultation, 25 To the only wise God our Savior, is glory and majesty, power and control, both now and into all eternity. Amen.